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Focused on the Cross

In today’s post, I’ll continue looking at the Gospel of Mark.  A few weeks ago we left off as Christ was on trial.  Now He’s brought before Pontius Pilate for the Roman decision on His case..  You may want to read Mark 15:1-20 before proceeding with this post.

As we saw when Jesus was before the elders of Israel, He was not led by the Holy Spirit to answer the charges being brought against Him.  They were brought by false witnesses who didn’t even agree with each other.

These leaders decided that the Lord was worthy of death.  Actually, they simply wanted Him dead whether He was worthy of it or not.  So they bring Jesus before Pilate, who was the only person who could legally pronounce a death penalty.

Of all the things the Pharisees accused Jesus of; one, in particular, caught Pilate’s attention.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
Mark 15:2

The Lord was willing to testify concerning the truth about who He was.  But why didn’t He elaborate?  I would have probably gone on to say, “Not only am I the king of the Jews but Lord of Heaven and earth as well.  I am the Creator of the universe. “

Of course, that’s the human reaction.  We have to remember; the Lord’s goal was not to be worshipped but to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  In that respect, He simply answered the question as it had been asked.

The rest of the accusations were of no consequence to Him.

The chief priests accused him of many things.  So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer?  See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Mark 15:3-5

Pilate was not used to this.  Usually, a person in Jesus’ position would be vigorously claiming their innocence.  The Lord saw no need for it.  And neither did Pilate, as he later testified when the crowd was crying for crucifixion.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Mark 15:14

I praise God that Jesus was single-minded in His determination to complete the work set before Him.  At many points, the Lord could have done something or said something that would have secured His release.  But His focus was unbreakable.  His mind was fixed upon winning our salvation.

We need the Holy Spirit to work that same attitude in us.  Too often we get distracted by side issues.  We feel the need to justify ourselves or to prove our right to do what we want.

We need to be seeking the Father for His will for our lives.  Then, with the strength of the Spirit, we move forward with unstoppable passion.  This should be our prayer for the church in our generation.

Question: Why are the distractions so tempting to us?

© Nick Zaccardi 2018

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Posted by on September 3, 2018 in Encouragement, Ministry, The Gospel

 

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Courage Under Fire

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future?  Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on?  Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, we see His time with the disciples at the Last Supper.  Keep in mind that because this is the first of the gospels to be written, the Holy Spirit only inspired Mark to give the “bare bones” of what happened at this meal.

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me — one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
Mark 14:17-19

Mark shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ.  The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over.  Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge.  It hurt them.  In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing.  On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions.  The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them.  But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on.  It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.  The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.  But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
Mark 14:20-21

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed.  It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table.  In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer.  There will come a time when he will wish he had never been born.  His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention.  He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself.  He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead.  The cross was not taking Him by surprise.  He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction.  That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives.  Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us.  Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory.  So we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us.  Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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Are You in the Weeds?

I’m posting about the different kinds of soil that Jesus said was contained in our hearts.  Today’s post is about someone with very good soil.  It produced bountifully.  The problem was that it wasn’t producing fruit.

Instead, it raised a great crop of thorns and thistles.  Then the few good plants that sprung up were choked out before they produced anything.

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Mark 4:18-19

These believers get further along than the other groups.  They believe the Word and actually let it take root in their lives.  Their problem is that they let other things grow right along next to it.

The first weed Jesus mentions is the distractions of this age, in the original Greek.  What a description of the modern Christian – DISTRACTED!

It’s not that we’ve turned our backs on God.  On the contrary, we want God’s best – His Word and His grace.  The trouble is that we want the world’s best as well.  We’re getting distracted by the things of the world.

Another weed the Lord talks about is the delusion of wealth.  When we think of wealth, it tricks us into believing that it can supply all of our needs.  The truth is that wealth can only obtain material possessions.

Wealth can never satisfy the longing of our souls.  If it could, you’d never hear of a wealthy person committing suicide.  The thing we need to put into perspective is that only the things that come from the Word of God are truly able to fulfill our lives.

The third weed that grows next to the Word is simply, desires.  What the verse implies is that this is a desire for the things that were given up in order to follow after God.  When we start looking back at these things with longing in our hearts, it’s a sure road to failure.

Please understand that it’s not doing the former things that cause the trouble, it’s the desire to do it.

The biggest thing that the Christians of this generation need to realize is that you can’t have it all, no matter what any televangelist will tell you.  You can’t have the power of God manifest in you, as well as everything your flesh desires.

It’s a well-known principle of farming.  When weeds and valuable crops are allowed to grow in the same space, it’s the weeds that will win out every time.

But when our life is unfruitful, we’re so quick to blame God.

“Oh God, I planted the Word.  Why is there no harvest?  Why have you failed me?”

I’m here to inform you, it wasn’t God who failed.  Everything grew as God ordained it to.  It was the weeds in your life that choked out the Word before it was able to produce fruit in you.  That’s why there was no harvest.

Part of the farming process is to keep the ground free of weeds.  Intimate time spend in the Spirit is what’s required.  Then the ground will be free and clear.  At that point, you can expect an abundant harvest.

Question: How are you keeping your heart free from the weeds?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Avoiding the Cross

 

 

Cross SunsetIn my last post I talked about the pattern of living that the Apostle Paul handed down to his churches.

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Philippians 3:17-18

The unfortunate truth that Paul saw in his day, and is an epidemic in ours, is that many believers live as enemies of the cross. Please understand. They’re not really enemies – they would never think to put it into those terms.

They actually think they’re followers of Christ. But in reality, enemies try to avoid one another at all costs. That’s how many treat the cross.

You can see it in a church service. When the sermon starts heading in that direction, eyes start to glaze over.

“Yes, Pastor, we know we need to take up our cross. But I’d rather hear something that will get me a better job.”

Paul describes these people in the next verse.

Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
Philippians 3:19

Actually, this verse isn’t as bad as it sounds. What’s translated as their destiny is destruction isn’t talking about spending eternity in hell. What it means is that the destination of the road they’re on is ruin and loss.

It’s talking about what happens in this life. So much of the church is wallowing in ruin and loss. We spend so much time trying to come up with teachings that merely put a Band-Aid on the problem.

He also describes the objects of their focus. It’s all about their stomach, their shame and earthly things. Christians are involved in so much these days – a lot of them are healthy pursuits. Restaurants, gym memberships, sports leagues, and hundreds of other things.

Many of us give great sounding reasons for what we do. We want to be well-rounded people. Our lives need to be in balance. We want the world to see that we’re regular people. Paul, however, sees it from a different perspective.

Through the eyes of Christ, the Apostle breaks through our excuses and zeroes in on what’s really going on. It’s all about us. Our god is our stomach. Our desire is to fulfill the lusts and desires of our flesh. We look at the world around us and get jealous of all that they experience. We want to partake of the same things.

We glory in our shame. This is a hallmark of our society. I’m ashamed that I don’t look like the actor on TV with those washboard abs. I have to start a program at the gym to try and work on it.

My heroes are the singers on American Idol, so I need to take voice lessons. I want to be like the athletes I watch at the stadium, so I join a basketball league. Now, I’m too busy to do very much for Christ.

It all boils down to the last statement Paul makes – their mind is on earthly things. It doesn’t matter how good you make it sound. The things that distract us from pursuing Christ will only pull us down to ruin and loss. It’s time for the church to wake up.

Question: How do we break free from the distractions of the world?

© Nick Zaccardi 2015

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Revival, The Church

 

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A Prophecy for 2015

 

2015I’ve found that the Psalms have lined up with current affairs since the year 1901. Over the past 10 years or so I’ve preached from a Psalm each year and it’s been amazingly accurate. The Psalm for the New Year is Psalm 115.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

We need to start 2015 on the right footing. It’s all about the Lord’s glory and not ours. Sometimes we miss that in the quest for bigger ministries. Yes, we want the move of God to attract people, but it’s the name of Jesus that should be the goal.

Moving on from here, there’s a bigger issue at stake. I believe that 2015 is the year of the big question. It’s what we should have been asking long before now.

Why do the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Psalm 115:2

Wow! Could there be any other question more appropriate for our present generation of believers? Notice that the question isn’t, “Where is their God?” It’s more a question to us, asking what are we doing that blinds the world to who our God is.

Why is the nation unaware of our God? Why do they believe that God is irrelevant to our lives? That’s the question of the hour.

The next part of the Psalm gives the answer to it all.

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
Psalm 115:3-8

We’ve forgotten the simple truth that our God is Lord over all. The things that the world runs after can never give life. These things can never help us in our time of need.

Money, entertainment, social media sites, and all the rest are merely distractions keeping us from experiencing the best God has for us. In their right place – under the authority of Christ – they can be beneficial. But when they take time away from our walk with the Holy Spirit, we’re headed for ruin.

We can’t afford to fill our lives with the world’s distractions. It’s time for God’s people to press into the place of intimacy with Him. That’s where the true source of power is found.

You who fear him, trust in the Lord — he is their help and shield.
Psalm 115:5

This year we need to remember where our allegiance should be. The rest of the Psalm is a blessing upon those who are willing to take the time to seek the Lord’s presence. Let 2015 be the year we turn things around. Make it the year that the world sees that truly there is a God who works in and through His church.

Have a blessed and prosperous New Year in Christ!

Question: What are you trust God for in this coming year?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Power of God, Revival, The Church

 

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Dissipation, Drunkenness, Anxiety – Signs of the Times

TimingI just want to spend one more post on the teachings of Christ concerning His return. This is how Jesus closed this part of His End-Times teaching in Luke.

“Be careful or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you will be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Luke 21:34-36

Jesus tells us that because of our knowledge of future events, our lives should be different from the world. We have a mission before us that’s time sensitive. Those things that hinder us from effectively preaching the Gospel of Christ must be put away.

The Lord spoke of dissipation. The Greek word literally means tossing-head. It was the common term for a hangover. We associate this term with drinking, but Jesus wasn’t limiting it to the use of alcohol.

Whenever we leave our calling to chase after the world, there’s a wasted period of time while we get back on track again. This is the period of our spiritual “hangover”. Too many Christians are living most of their lives in dissipation.

They’re either giving in to the desire for the things of the world or they’re trying to regain what they’ve lost. Don’t waste most of your life in dissipation.

Drunkenness, then, is the actual pursuit of worldly pleasures. You can become intoxicated on more that just alcohol. Power, money, sports, and a host of other distractions can rob you of your effectiveness in God.

Does that mean that all these things are sin? Absolutely not! But if you find yourself more involved in these temporary things than in your walk with God, then your priorities are messed up.

The third warning the Lord gives us is to beware of the anxieties of life. We’re not to be so overwhelmed by our cares that it hinders our walk with God.

When we spend most of our time worrying about finances, health, and relationships, we lose our desire to serve God faithfully. Jesus said that if you seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, then your needs would be taken care of.

Jesus said that the temptation to fall into these traps would come on all people – no exceptions. There will be no free rides. He’s warning us about the future so that we’ll be ready.

That’s why He said that if you’re watchful, awake, and alert, you could pray to escape some of these things. Literally it means to run away from. I believe that if we seek God’s wisdom, we’ll be protected from much of the pain that will come to the earth. Of course that means we need to listen for God’s voice of instruction, and then obey Him when He speaks.

I believe that the last days of this age are going to be the most exciting time period that any Christian could be a part of.

Question: What emotions does the thought of Christ’s return stir up in you?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Return of Christ, The Church

 

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Vision – Get it in Writing!

NI’ve been posting about the importance of knowing God’s vision for your life and ministry. Without vision it’s easy to be distracted into areas that don’t fulfill God’s plan for you.

If you have no clear vision from the Lord, then that needs to be one of your greatest priorities in prayer. Spend the time necessary to hear from the Holy Spirit. Without a clear vision, you’ll never have a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment that’s a part of the life of a victorious believer.

But knowing God’s vision for your life is only half of the issue. Once you have a grasp of God’s plan for you, there’s more you can do to solidify it.

In my last post I talked about a verse from the prophet Habakkuk. It bears repeating.

Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2:2-3

There’s more to vision than just knowledge of its particulars. It also needs to be declared openly so that you can run with it. It needs to be constantly before your eyes so that you’ll not lose sight of it. This means that you need to write it down in a clear, understandable language.

Never apologize for or water down the dream God has given you. There may be some details of it, which other people aren’t ready to hear just yet, but the general direction should be clear.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about having a “mission statement.” Once again, man tries to take credit for something that God told us to do a thousand years ago.

A mission statement is merely a vision that’s written down and declared. You can only hit as high as you aim. If you expect nothing from God, I can guarantee that you will get it!

But when you’re willing to take a risk, and declare publicly what God has placed in your heart, then you’re a candidate for a supernatural ministry. As an example to you, I’ll share the mission statement God has given me for my life and ministry.

My mission: “To search out and study the deeper truths of God’s Word, then by making them plain and understandable through the teaching of Scripture, cause individual believers as well as the body of Christ to live up to their God-given potential in Christ.”

Having a written vision is very important. There are so many things that can be done. Having a written statement allows us to filter out the excess. If it doesn’t somehow bring us another step closer to the vision, then no matter how good it is, we don’t need it.

Excellence requires vision. But that vision must be birthed in the mind of God and not man. This requires a listening heart and an abundance of time in the presence of the Lord. It will not be a quick and easy process. But if you make a decision to be excellent and follow it through before God, then He will see to it that you know the vision He has called you to attain.

Question: What is your personal mission statement?

© Nick Zaccardi 2014

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Ministry, Prayer, Spirit of Excellence

 

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